Christmas Message 2013
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Christmas 2013

Easter Sunday, 12 April 2020

Christmas 2013 Message of His Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay to the Children of the Maronite Church in Australia
Christmas is “Faithfulness and Openness

Beloved Brothers and Sisters of our Eparchy,

I now address to you my first Christmas message since Our Lord called me to the fullness of the priesthood as the Shepherd, not of just any Eparchy, but of this blessed and vast diocese, sprawling across the nation of Australia. It is my honour to be entrusted with the task of sanctifying, teaching and governing this Eparchy, with the assistance of its priests, consecrated men and women, and laity of good will.

The celebration of Christmas always leads us to meditate upon the greatness of the amazing mystery that “God became man and dwelt among us”, revealing the beauty of his hidden divinity, enriching our weak and impoverished humanity, and drawing all people to his love. Christmas is the feast of love incarnate in our land, the celebration of the opening of the doors of heaven. It is the feast of “Faithfulness and Openness”, under which forms we welcome Christmas with a renewed spiritual impulse; with firm hope, great joy and renewed covenantal devotion to the Lord. It is the feast of God with us: Emmanuel.

The origins of this feast go back to the first covenant that the Lord God made, after our first parents fell victim to disobedience and sin. God promised a Saviour to restore his image in humanity to its first splendour, for it had become marred by sin. God is faithful to his promises and his love. His faithfulness is unshakable and his “word endures forever” (Is 40:8). This covenant, which is one of God’s gifts to man, is the foundation and the main reason for the economy of salvation, for God wants to be united with the Bride which he has espoused to Himself in faithfulness (Hos 2:20), and who is no longer able to know Him without his direct intervention.

“… In the fullness of time , God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as children” (Gal 4:4-5). The Incarnation of Jesus Christ fulfilled this promise, and humanity entered a new covenant with God the Father, who invites them to enter a life partnership with his Only Son Jesus Christ to receive salvation through the grace of the Holy Spirit.
In the person of Jesus Christ, the faithfulness of God was revealed in its magnificence, splendour and perfection; it was demonstrated by the absolute obedience of Jesus to his heavenly Father, obedience unto death, even to death on the cross, in faithfulness to his salvific mission. This faithfulness reaches its summit in Christ, a summit unimaginable to the human mind. In the words of St Paul: “If we are faithless, he is faithful still, for he cannot disown his own self” (2 Tim. 2:13).

At Christmas, the star of faithfulness shines bright with the light of openness, leading our hearts and souls to the child in the manger. We see in his birth the fulfilment of God’s promises, his faithfulness to those promises, and the opening of the door of salvation for every human being without exception. The human face of God in Jesus Christ is praised by the angels in heaven, singing: “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth.” The human face of the Divine Lord Jesus is also praised by our human voices on earth, proclaiming: “We believe in you O Lord, and we believe that you are truly present amongst us.” As believers in the Lord Jesus, this is an indication that, like the Virgin Mary and St Joseph, we have been given the grace of faith. Following the example of the apostles and disciples, we believe in the One who was sent by God the Father. We live in faithfulness to him and his teachings every day of our lives. In openness to others, we desire to be open to every person, and to deliver the Word of the Gospel and the good news of salvation – to all peoples and nations.

Dearly Beloved,

The sacred liturgical seasons are spiritual occasions set by the Church in a certain order, so that we may better live our essential vocation, which is to follow Jesus Christ as individuals and communities. I call upon you not to limit your Christmas celebrations this year to a fleeting period, marked only by external activities, but to make it a new starting point for our internal spiritual journey, taking a step forward in our commitment to the teachings of the Divine Master, and meditating upon his words: “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). It is a holy season during which we are called to a new level of faithfulness in the spirituality, liturgy and traditions of our Maronite Church. This happens when our families take pride in their Maronite identity and live the faith with vigour and joy, and come together daily to praise and thank the Lord, remembering that “the family that prays together stays together”. Our actions should express our living faith, for the greater Glory of God and the good of humanity. In the month of August, at the start of my episcopal ministry, I announced my action plan for the Eparchy, including my seven priorities for the coming seven years. I call upon you, the beloved children of our Eparchy, to spiritually support it, to show unity and to constructively assist us in executing this plan.

My prayer of thanksgiving rises with the joyous peal of the Christmas bells, for every individual, family and community which has taken the initiative this Christmas to aid the poor and the homeless here in Australia, and to assist migrants and refugees worldwide, but especially in Lebanon. The Church has always witnessed the openness of its children to others in need. In his recent encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel”, Our Holy Father Pope Francis teaches: “Any Church community, if it thinks it can comfortably go its own way without creative concern and effective cooperation in helping the poor to live with dignity and reaching out to everyone, will also risk breaking down.” (Par 207)

The Lord of heaven and earth was born poor in a humble manger. Let us bow before him in spiritual adoration, and pray for our country Australia, asking him to keep our families united in love and prayer, in the image of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Let us pray for Lebanon, asking the Lord to ease the suffering of its people, remembering also in our prayers the grieving families of the Middle East, especially the people of Syria yearning for peace in very dark and sad circumstances.

Grant us, Lord, to confirm again our covenant of faithfulness with you this Christmas. May we be renewed by the peace that you brought to our world. May we proclaim your hope with a loving openness to all our brothers and sisters.

“Jesus is born! Alleluia!”

Antoine-Charbel Tarabay
– Maronite Bishop of Australia